Top trio to identify lines of succession
WILLY WO-LAP LAM
President Jiang Zemin has formed a top-level personnel committee to look at the issue of 'cross-millennium' succession.
A party source in Beijing said yesterday the committee consisted of only three people: Mr Jiang, Vice-President Hu Jintao and alternate member of the Politburo Zeng Zinghong.
Its goal is to identify leaders, particularly 'fourth-generation' or younger cadres, for a wide array of positions.
They range from heads of regional administrations to members of the supreme Politburo Standing Committee.
While a wholesale changing of the guard will not take place until the 16th Party Congress in 2002, moves on the personnel front have already taken place at both the central and regional levels.
The party source said after finishing his upcoming trip to Europe and Africa, Mr Jiang would focus on grooming the next generation of leaders.
'Next year, Jiang will devote much of his time to issues of personnel and party construction,' the party source said.
'It is likely he will travel less and let Hu Jintao raise his profile on the world stage.' It is understood Mr Jiang is particularly concerned about new blood for the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, up to five of whom might retire in 2002.
A foreign diplomat said the President was grooming proteges including Mr Zeng, Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo, and the party secretaries of Guangdong, Shandong and Shanghai, respectively Li Changchun, Wu Guanzheng and Huang Ju.
For the three regional party bosses to be considered for the Politburo Standing Committee, Mr Jiang will have to transfer them to a senior position in the capital well before the 16th Party Congress.
The political fortunes of cadres not included in the selection process are set to decline. The diplomat said that given the relative eclipse of Premier Zhu Rongji since April, it was not surprising that he was not made a member of the high-level personnel committee.
The promotion prospects of Zhu proteges, such as State Councillor Wu Yi, are also deemed dismal.
By contrast, several followers of the National People's Congress chairman, Li Peng, a Jiang ally, are thought to have better chances for elevation.
For example, State Councillor Luo Gan is expected to replace Wei Jianxing as the Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of law and order.